Top 5 things I’ve learned from 6 months of being nobody’s pastor

About six months ago, I left the congregation I had been serving to begin service to a regional level of my denomination. This is the first time in almost 10 years that I’ve not actively served a local congregation (in some capacity) on a regular basis, and a few things have brought themselves to my attention.

I’m a firm believer in the Pareto Principle. Most of us know it as the “80-20 Rule”, and it states that 80% of the output is the result of 20% of input. I look at everything this way, constantly trying to pare down the things I’m doing to what is actually effective and beneficial.

Naturally, attending other churches with the kind of insider knowledge I have means that (for a while) I’m looking at what can be improved upon and what is working well. For six months I have been given a perspective on congregational life that few pastors get. And so, in hopes that it will be helpful, here are the Top 5 things I’ve learned about church in the last six months:

  1. Preaching matters. A lot. I’m not saying you’ve got to be Anna Carter Florence or anything, but if you half ass the sermon, shame on you. This is your number one job.
  2. If the folks you serve don’t know how to be hospitable, it’s over. And the bigger you are, the harder it is. Think about it like the way you want a server at a restaurant to behave: attentive to what you need and willing to get it, but not too chatty that they smother you. It’s a fine line and it’s hard to find, but that’s no excuse.
  3. Casual or informal worship is fine. Unintentional and watered down is not. Plus, anything that smacks of a performance? Boo.
  4. All things to all people just doesn’t work. There are a gazillion churches out there. Not everyone is gonna love the kind of stuff yours offers and that’s okay. Do what you do, do it well, and make it easy for folks to get involved. This is particularly applicable to Christian Education programs. Multiple offerings is fine, but come on – Some of us are ridiculous.
  5. Every congregation needs a mission project to rally around. Of course, given my belief in open source methodology, congregations should have a culture of experimentation and permission, but a lot of people are not “starters” and need something to latch onto.

These, in my opinion, are the 20%. They are not earth shattering, but in this changing landscape of whatever church is and is becoming I have to admit that I was surprised by a couple of these.